“You’re a free man you can make your own choice, that’s the message of V in any form.”
And just like that six months have got behind me and it’s time for another Longbox Soapbox!
Twice a year I take stock of where I am with Longbox Graveyard, solicit feedback in the form of a poll, reveal some numbers behind the blog, and take a formal vow to continue Longbox Graveyard for another six months (or not).
Those interested in blogging minutia can review my past Longbox Soapbox columns:
This 104th “issue” of Longbox Graveyard is a big one for me, as it marks two years of continuous Wednesday publication for the blog. Starting as a means of keeping myself on-track in reducing and organizing my comics Accumulation (a job I have yet to complete), Longbox Graveyard has taken on a life of its own as a Bronze Age comic book nostalgia blog. A few recent guest blogs notwithstanding, Longbox Graveyard remains a one-man effort done out of love of comics, as well as a desire to communicate with my fellow hobbyists. Every half-hearted attempt I’ve made to monetize the blog has been met with indifference or disaster. Like Reed Richards, I’m a lunkhead when it comes to making money!
let’s not talk about money
From the start I’ve kept this blog going by signing six-month contracts with myself. Once I’ve commenced on a six-month hitch of Longbox Graveyard I make myself see it through. When those six months are up, I either sign up for another six months, or put the blog to bed.
do you recognize this devilish contract from the 1970s?
Will Longbox Graveyard continue, or will I shut it down? The answer is … both! (Sort of). More details in a moment, but before looking at where I am going, a brief survey of where I have been.
Statistics & Hits
Hits of course are the lifeblood of any blog. Traffic drives dollars if you are doing this for a living — which I am not — but even with a free blog, hits are your scoreboard, and it is hard to ignore them. I check my traffic several times each day, and if I am not so obsessed with these numbers as in months past, I would be lying if I said my traffic numbers were unimportant to me.
What is not a lie is to say my numbers are less important to me than the last time I did a Longbox Soapbox. After the crazy growth in the second six months of Longbox Graveyard’s life, my readership has plateaued a little, but I am still seeing decent growth. My monthly average readership in December 2012-May 2013 was up about 13% from the preceding six months. January 2013 saw the blog go above 10K views in a month for the first time, but the average for this period has been a more modest 8321 views/month.
That will seem like a lot to a few of you, and nothing at all to more of you. For me, the numbers are what they are. I really have nothing to compare against. How many hits should I draw for a once-weekly, wordy, idiosyncratic blog about comics that are decades old?
I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know. I can think of only a few comparable blogs (The Peerless Power of Comics seems closest, it is also a very good blog), but absent a dozen or so similar blogs, comparisons aren’t going to count for much. I have resolved that my numbers will be what they will be. I will continue to track them, but I won’t obsess over them, and I will put my effort into content rather than search engine optimization.
Comparing these referrals to the last time I checked, we see that Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook have been stepping up as traffic sources. Most traffic continues to come from search (of course), and I would expect this to grow as more and more content and images are added to the blog. Pinterest appears to have leveled off. Reddit’s comic books subdomain remains useful for driving spikes (giving my Darkseid poll a record-breaking day, and also pushing my silly Pepper Potts Pin-Up strongly over Iron Man 3’s opening weekend), but I have no evidence Reddit views convert to readers. Sneaking in at the end of my Top 10 are Stash My Comics & the Chasing Amazing blog, and speaking of Stash My Comics …
not even a Superduperman can do it all … reducing outside commitments!
Stash My Comics & The Longbox Graveyard Podcast
Last month I concluded my Dollar Box column for Stash My Comics after twelve monthly columns. “Twelve” seemed like a good number for a mini-series, and as I have been feeling spread a little thin, it only made sense to wrap up Dollar Box. That content was so similar to what I do here that Dollar Box effectively meant that I was publishing Longbox Graveyard five times a month, and that was starting to take a toll. It was fun to write for Stash My Comics, and we drove a few hits for each other, but I’ve decided to suspend outside commitments to concentrate on Longbox Graveyard. I assume my articles will stay up at SMC for awhile. Going forward, I will be republishing my Dollar Box columns here at Longbox Graveyard after the one year anniversary of each article’s original posting (starting with last week’s Nick Fury post).
I’ve also ended my Longbox Graveyard Podcast after twelve installments, for many of the same reasons I ended Dollar Box. The Longbox Graveyard Podcast was showing strong numbers and building an audience, but my passion is with blogging, and not podcasting. It was a tough call to walk away, as Mo Kristiansen was a great partner and made it very easy to do the podcast. It was fun to experiment with that form — and I may return to it at some point — but in the interest of sticking with my core interest, I have retired from podcasting and will be giving this blog my full geek attention.
I remain active on social media. Pinterest doesn’t drive a lot of traffic but my boards are easy to maintain, and they do provide a worthy visual supplement for activities here at Longbox Graveyard. Instagram is closely tied to Pinterest, and again it is no big deal to post an image every day. It may not drive traffic to the blog, but my Instagram images do generate comment on Instagram itself, and also help stimulate conversation on Twitter, which remains a vibrant channel for me. I maintain an information presence on Facebook and Google+ to provide updates for the smaller community of followers that keep track of me on those services.
I think that’s about all the social media I can handle! I do push image and blog updates to Flickr and Tumblr but that’s automatically handled when the blog publishes and I don’t otherwise do much on those channels. I tried Quora for a little while but ran afoul of their naming policy. They put me in the penalty box until I would identify myself as someone other than “Longbox Graveyard” — I decided I couldn’t be bothered and deleted my account.
It will be interesting to see what happens with readership with the pending demise of Google Reader. Will the death of the leading RSS platform stimulate on-site views and email subscriptions? Being insufficiently competent to back out my email and RSS numbers from the stats dashboard, I guess I will never know!
Continuing work on The Accumulation has stalled out a little as I’ve gotten hip-deep in the remodeling project described in my Mancave Monday posts. I regard this a good thing. My manic desire to recklessly reduce the piles of comics out in the garage veered into extreme territory at times, and if I am suddenly more comfortable with where things are in that regard … well, that’s progress. Also, by shifting my energy towards building out a space where I can better enjoy my comics, I’m demonstrating a kind of accommodation, acceptance, and capacity for joy in the hobby that I did not anticipate when I started this project.
I am … at peace … with my choices
My pace of buying books has slowed down, as well. I’ve filled in nearly all the back issues on my list, and there are relatively few trade paperbacks on my shopping list. For the most part I am reading what I’ve got. I am still enjoying my Marvel Unlimited digital subscription, especially now that it is available in an iPad-friendly form. A similar, all-you-can-eat subscription service from DC would be welcome (and would substantially increase the number of DC books examined by this blog!)
Comic books continue to dominate my reading, split about 50/50 between books I blog about, and books I read for the heck of it. Sometimes I surprise myself — I didn’t expect to like Sgt. Rock as much as I did, and never intended to cover it here at Longbox Graveyard, but these unexpected discoveries are one of the real joys of writing this blog. Other times, long-gestating ideas will reach the blog in unexpected forms, like all the Superman reading that wound up in my comparative essay on the death of that character, or my Brian Michael Bendis article that began as a Daredevil review.
impressive visual storytelling characterizes the latest incarnation of Hawkeye, by Fraction and Aja
I’ve been reading the latest issues of Hawkeye, Daredevil, Saga, Criminal, and Guardians of the Galaxy — which likely won’t end up on the blog — while vintage Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, and Tomb of Dracula likely will. It isn’t that I dislike the newer books or lack opinions on them, but there are plenty of places for new comics reviews, and I also feel I can’t really appraise a comics run until it has been complete for months (or years!). For this reason, my reviews will for the most part continue to be confined to comics of decades past.
But … I suppose this is as good a subject as any for my bi-annual poll! Please vote, below!
Community Community Community!
What I’ve found most flattering about Longbox Graveyard is that it has developed a genuine community over the years. Even the least of my posts will earn a comment from my dedicated group of correspondents, and some comment threads have been better than the posts themselves. It is a special joy to see an older post earn a new comment, because that lets me know that the blog continues to find new readers, and that my legacy material (even some of the stuff that is now out of date) remains of value.
I can’t say it enough — I deeply value the Longbox Graveyard community. I am immensely proud and flattered to have developed a cadre of discerning and insightful readers, and I always look forward to your comments. Thank you for following my blog, and keep those (virtual) cards and letters coming in!
First, the good news. Longbox Graveyard will continue! I am signing another six month contract with myself and plan to continue the blog through December of 2013.
However … I will be reducing the frequency with which I publish major content. After some soul-searching I’ve decided to downshift from publishing every Wednesday to every odd-numbered Wednesday, effective immediately. I suppose this is the blogging equivalent of “going bi-monthly,” which was usually the kiss of death for Bronze Age comics, but I hope a reduced publication schedule will allow me to keep Longbox Graveyard going indefinitely. I might even go back to weekly publication in the future. But for now … tune in every odd-numbered Wednesday for a new Longbox Graveyard article (if this is too confusing you can always see what is coming up and when with a glance at my Checklist).
There will also be some content changes here at the blog. I’ve already run several guest blogs these past few months (mostly by the talented Mark Ginocchio of Chasing Amazing Blog — thanks, Mark!), and this is a trend I would like to see continue. I think Longbox Graveyard benefits from other voices every now and then. Mark will be providing next week’s blog on the peculiar history of Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and I know he has at least one other idea on the boil for us. If you would like to guest blog for Longbox Graveyard, drop me a line (LongboxGraveyard (at) gmail (dot) com) — I’m looking for material that falls into the general purview of Bronze and Silver Age superhero stories evaluated from a personal point-of-view. There’s no pay, but you can’t put a price on comics blogging glory!
In addition to guest blogs, I will be running some reprint material here at Longbox Graveyard. There will be the aforementioned Dollar Box reprints, and I also plan to start spotlighting my Pinterest boards with twice-weekly posts pointing toward the collection of images I’ve assembled over at that site, along with the original Longbox Graveyard articles that inspired them. On off weeks, even if I am not publishing a full article, I will sometimes jump in with a pinup or a plug for another site, so in some ways the blog will be publishing more often than ever before — I just won’t be running my more in-depth articles as frequently as in the past two years. I also have a scratch plan in place to put of digital scans of a select few comics that I wrote back in the day.
Thanks in advance for your patience as Longbox Graveyard evolves!
That concludes this edition of the Longbox Soapbox! Thanks for reading this column and for your support of the blog these past two years. I do very much want to hear from you, so please vote in my poll, and leave me a comment below. If you comment on only one Longbox Graveyard column each year, let this be the one! Let me know you are out there, and tell me what you think of the blog.
Thanks again for reading! Here’s hoping for another six strong months of Longbox Graveyard!
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #105 Best Frenemies Forever
- Top Ten Captain America Villains (longboxgraveyard.com)
- 10 Facts about Free Comic Book Day (biowars.com)
- Tales from the Longbox – Iron Man #149-150 (1981) (biffbampop.com)
- Tales from the Longbox – G.I. Joe #21 (1984) (biffbampop.com)
- On Organizing A Comic Store’s Stock (gothamnewsstand.wordpress.com)
- Not With A Bang … (goblinsoup.wordpress.com)
- How Digital Comics Are Killing It (In a Good Way) (biowars.com)
There must be something in the water — or maybe Halloween and the U.S. election are driving people nuts. Either way, I’ve encountered three different freakouts in the last couple days. They’re nothing that rises to the level of a regular blog, but I’d like to share them anyway, in this first (and probably last) Longbox Graveyard Freakout Friday!
Freakout The First — Twitter Freak!
I had a spirited exchange on Twitter yesterday:
Yes, friends, it is true — I am guilty of the unpardonable sin of Twitter unfollowing. Call a cop. I went back and read ToxicStormComic’s stream and he was indeed a dullard, which is why I unfollowed him. That he also proved to be a knucklehead was an unanticipated bonus.
Toxie’s insult doesn’t upset me at all — it’s kind of funny, which is why I RT’d it to my stream yesterday. It’s also a milestone of a sort because it’s the first time in the eighteen months I’ve been online as Longbox Graveyard that I’ve gotten flamed, which means I am doing something right (or maybe very, very wrong).
I’ve been flamed! Oh no!
I suppose this is a chance for me to lay out the Longbox Graveyard Twitter policy.
I am quick to hire and quick to fire on Twitter. I’ll follow most anyone, but I’ll also bounce you if you’re boring, or needy, or posting about stuff that might be very important but isn’t interesting to me. It’s not personal. I get followed and unfollowed all the time and that’s the way it goes. My rules are pretty much as I outlined to Mr. Toxic above — if you’re boring, or a knucklehead, or not following back, you get plonked.
It’s the “not following back” part that requires more explanation, because in this I am (gasp! horror!) hypocritical. There are plenty of people who follow me that I don’t follow back, but there isn’t a single person I follow who is itself not a follower. No exceptions.
The reason for this is twofold. First, the primary reason I’m on Twitter in the first place is to drive traffic to Longbox Graveyard. If you aren’t listening to my feed, I can’t do that. Second, I’m also here to actively engage with people … and anyone who has tweeted at me knows that I always make an effort to tweet back. Again, if you aren’t following me, you aren’t engaging with me. I completely understand that there are pros and celebrities who can’t possibly follow back everyone who follows them and that’s fine. I just don’t follow those people. I need you to follow me and (hopefully) engage with me or I’m not interested in your Twitter stream. So if you want me to follow you, do one of those two things.
(And Toxic, baby, if you are reading this, I am taking my “kiss and make up” offer off the table. I reviewed your stream and you’re still boring).
Freakout The Second — Dark Iron Man!
I expect you’ve seen the trailer for Iron Man 3 by now:
It didn’t do a lot for me, but these first trailers for effects pictures are usually cobbled together from whatever footage is ready to show, and it is a rare first trailer that really blows my doors off. Half the time I don’t look at trailers at all. Iron Man 3? Sold. I will be there first weekend. Why spoil it with a trailer?
A favorite sport is tormenting the Ulm, my day job partner-in-crime, and a comics guy from way back (you may remember him from our Deathlok review, or our Top Ten Manliest Superheroes list, or maybe you were there when I moderated Ulm’s Malibu Comics panel at San Diego Comic-Con).
Ulm even loved Iron Man when he had a NOSE!
The Ulm loves Iron Man. He loved Iron Man even back in the bad old George Tuska days, and he loves Iron Man even more in his eponymous movie and The Avengers, too (we don’t often speak of Iron Man 2). After reading mainstream press reaction to this “dark and grim” Iron Man I thought it was a chance to give Ulm the needle, as I know he loves the lighter tone of the big Marvel pictures, and is worn out by the sometimes dour tone of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films.
I sent Ulm a link to the trailer and Vulture’s article about it, and I was not disappointed in the Ulm’s epic and sarcastic return rant:
Whew. Just saw the new Iron Man trailer. I’m really glad they got rid of that “snarky humor action adventure” trope. No AC/DC, no quips, no fast cars, no stripping stewardesses. Finally, the pointless debris of “entertainment” has been discarded in favor of the grim truth that lies beneath the surface of every comic book character.
Now we see the Iron Man we have all been waiting for — a serious man nursing his regrets. Now is the time to rip the veil from Tony’s destructive alcoholism and make him pay for his errant and violent ways.
Think how interesting it will be to have a bed-ridden Tony Stark. Personally, I’d like to see maybe 2/3 of the running time with Tony in a coma because of the Mandarin. While he slumbers, ill of heart and mind, let us penetrate Tony’s conscience; his dark dreams and secret torments. Let us see strippers morph into Tony’s mother while he shrieks into the uncaring void. Let us see the living embodiment of Tony’s father through the metaphoric transformation of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Is the disembodied voice coming from the whisky really Howard Stark — or is it the Mandarin — or could it be … Tony himself?
In the course of Iron Man 3, I am eagerly anticipating that Mr. Stark will let down those closest to him, but ultimately learn respect for others (especially women) and, more importantly, for himself. He will learn that his rich and famous lifestyle has actually been a waste of his human potential to love – and be loved.
As the audience, we will travel this dark road with him. We too shall feel our sanity slipping away beneath the many hued rings and accusatory dialogue of the Mandarin. We shall emerge not just entertained, not just captivated, but also that much wiser about ourselves.
Now is the time to transform a so-called “enjoyable” popcorn matinee into a darkly tinged tone poem that transforms the withered trope of “superheroism” into a penetrating view of the subconscious “Iron Man” within us all.
— Chris Ulm
Awesome, Ulmster. Pure awesome.
Freakout The Third — By Crom!
About the only thing I thought less likely than a John Carter sequel was another Conan movie, but today comes news that a new Conan picture may be coming in 2014, with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the role that made him a star.
Now, I’m not crazy about Arnold as my favorite barbarian, which I made clear in one of my first columns here at Longbox Graveyard … but if Arnold is what it takes to get Conan back on the big screen, then I’m ready to make peace with him. Besides, in a twisted sort of way, “Old Arnold” may be better than “Young Arnold” for this role.
Hear me out.
First, there is some indication that Arnold is ready to start acting his age (while still being superhuman), as evinced by this trailer for The Last Stand.
It won’t make anyone forget Terminator, but it doesn’t look terrible. The Last Stand might even be fun.
Further, there is precedent for “Old Conan.” The very first Robert E. Howard Conan story — The Phoenix on the Sword — is about an older Conan, now king of Aquilonia, coming to realize that it is an uneasy head that wears the crown. There was even a fifty-five issue run of King Conan from Marvel Comics back in the 1980s, looking at Conan’s adventures at the end of his life (and now I find myself interested in completing that run).
Arnold has also been slapped around a bit lately, losing his marriage after a sordid sex scandal (in a career that seen quite a few of them), and also proving to have been a failure as Governor of California. Maybe he’s ready to play a world-weary barbarian king. In any case, I’m going to be optimistic about this one, and enjoy my little freakout that Conan may be back, despite the recent big screen failure of the franchise.
Who knows? If the producers listen to the foolproof advice I offered for making a good Conan picture we may finally get the barbarian movie we deserve!
Here endeth the freakouts.
Be good to each other.
(And feel free to admonish me for my TwitterCrimes in comments, below)
- Longbox Graveyard Podcast: “Form Follows Function” (longboxgraveyard.com)
- Does The Mandarin Have A Captain America Tattoo In The ‘Iron Man 3’ Trailer? (geek-news.mtv.com)
- Will ‘Iron Man 3’ Be More ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Than ‘Avengers’? (geek-news.mtv.com)
- ‘Iron Man 3’ Trailer Teaches Lessons In Villainy (splashpage.mtv.com)
- #71 Guide To Comic Books On Instagram (longboxgraveyard.com)